Biden urges Maloney not to take on Gillibrand

Vice President Biden this week spoke with Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) to urge her not to run for Senate.

Maloney has been making initial moves toward challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) in the 2010 Democratic primary, hiring public relations strategists and fundraisers in both Washington and New York.

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It would be a primary national Democrats had hoped to avoid. Earlier this week, Biden sat down with Maloney in New York City and urged her not to run, according to a senior White House official.

"We've made it clear we're behind Sen. Gillibrand," the official said.

Biden visited the Big Apple on Monday and Tuesday, hosting a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee on Monday night and events on the economic recovery package Tuesday. Later Tuesday, Biden attended New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine's (D) campaign kickoff.

Even a phone call with the vice president may not be enough to sway Maloney; she is among the several members of New York City's congressional delegation who were upset that Gillibrand won appointment to fill Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Senate seat, particularly given Gillibrand's more centrist leanings on issues like immigration and gun rights.

Maloney and Rep. Steve Israel (D) were among the Democrats on Gov. David Paterson's (D) short list for the seat, according to media reports. Late last month, President Obama called Israel to ask him not to run, a call Israel cited in his statement removing himself from consideration.

Maloney has yet to announce whether she will run or not, but an aide said she is still listening to Democrats around New York. Some of those conversations have involved her colleagues in the Empire State's Congressional delegation.

"Congresswoman Maloney and I have talked extensively today. We talked yesterday. I have not discouraged her from running," Israel said on Capital News 9 on Wednesday. "She has been talking to all of her colleagues and it seems to me, based on those conversations, that she is getting quite close.

"I am absolutely open to considering [Maloney] or any other candidates who might emerge," Israel said. "I understand that somebody can be appointed to the Senate, but that doesn't necessarily mean you get anointed to the Senate."

"She's made it clear she's seriously considering [running]," said Barry Nolan, a Maloney advisor. "It's an important question to ask ... whose thinking is more in keeping with the feelings of New Yorkers. She and the current senator agree on a lot of things, but they disagree with some things."

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Nolan and other Maloney aides had nothing to say about the meeting with Biden. Advisors and allies said Thursday there are no imminent plans for Maloney to announce a decision.

If she does run, political observers say, it will set up a geographic battle as well as an ideological fight. Maloney is from New York City, home to more than half the Democratic primary electorate.

"The danger for Sen. Gillibrand has always been the Democratic primary, not the general election," said Hank Sheinkopf, a New York-based Democratic strategist.

Upstate politicians have a difficult time winning statewide elections. No one from upstate has been elected to the Senate since 1958, when Republican Kenneth Keating won a single term (he was defeated by Robert Kennedy six years later).

But Maloney faces a financial challenge, political observers said. She will have to raise between $6 and $10 million to be competitive in the primary.

Maloney "has been a good fundraiser over the course of her career, but the institutional powers who want to keep her from running are going to try to block that money," Sheinkopf said. "You can't block [Maloney], she's a subcommittee chair. That's not going to happen."

This story was updated at 2:10 p.m.